Confessions of a less than enthusiastic horse show Mom

Confession: I never wanted to be a horse show Mom. Don’t tell my daughter.

I showed horses in 4-H for close to ten years. It was never something I loved but I didn’t hate it either (most the time). 4-H, specifically horses, was just what you did in my family, every summer from the age of nine through eighteen or until you got bored with it.

And it wasn’t bad. Sure show days were long (so so long!), often stressful and always exhausting, horses are hard work, but showing through 4-H taught me a lot about myself and about life. I gained skills and made friendships that are still going strong twenty years later. I built relationships with amazing adults who volunteered their time to keep our county’s 4-H program running. Some of them didn’t even have kids in 4-H. I had the opportunity to learn about work ethic, responsibility, and community in a hands on, concrete way.

Showing horses and being in 4-H was a big and influential part of my childhood. But when my daughter was turning nine and my sister, who never got out of horses and 4-H, asked if my daughter was interested in showing I hesitated. I wanted to say no. I remembered the time and the stress and the cost, the way showing took over our lives from May through August. I thought about the danger, the inherent risk of riding and managing a large beast.

And yet here I am. Five years later sitting in a camper after the first full day of fair. Thirteen straight hours of showing in the heat and the dust and the sun surrounded by cranky younger siblings who have been drug along for ride and a gaggle of stressed and exhausted parents and club leaders. What happened?

I remembered my daughter’s innate love of horses.

I thought about the value of responsibility and community: two things inherent in any 4-H animal project that seem to be disappearing in this crazy, chaotic world where anything goes as long as it makes you “happy”.

I wondered how many other opportunities my daughter would have to set goals and work towards achieving them in a safe, supportive environment.

And I said yes to 4-H and showing horses (okay maybe I said a skeptical “I guess” to 4-H).

I’d be lying if I said I’ve enjoyed every moment of the past five years as a 4-H horse show parent. Of course there have been fun, exciting, and rewarding times. There has also been tension and stress, long days at horse shows when I have five other things I’d rather be doing, and more emotional ups and downs than a TV reality show. In end I consider it an investment and hope that 4-H will help shape my girl, my young woman really, into a responsible, kind and hard working individual.

So when you happen to catch barrel racing on ESPN 15 or whatever or you see Olympic three day eventing or come across a social media post with a video of a high level dressage performance set to music and they all make it look easy, know it’s not. That athlete working with their amazing four-legged partner probably started out as a tiny 4-H kid. Their parent stood ringside and watched with their hearts in their throat as that kid rode a bucking pony across the ring or took on a jump at a seemingly reckless pace. And know that for every elite rider there are a hundred, maybe a thousand, kids who spent their summers at the fairgrounds in show rings and went on to use what they learned there to become a successful adult. So even though I didn’t want to be a horse show Mom, I never planned to come back to this, I’m here. Investing in my kids through 4-H.

I’m FINE.

It’s February. Therefore I’ve been back in for a little over a month. I’ve noticed that it takes about a month for me to adjust each semester to life back in school. During that month I’m a wreck and stressed-out, crabby, scary wreck. It’s like I somehow forget how to manage school, work and my house/social life. (Not that I really have a social life but the meager one I do have is important to me to maintain.) I just made it through that month and it wasn’t pretty.

I knew this semester was going to be rough going in. I have class Monday-Thursday and work every weekend which means there’s never a break. Like never, really, I’m not even exaggerating this time. The adjustment this time around took me a little longer. I was am irritated by never having time to do anything fun. After snapping at a my significant other, possibly multiple times, whining to everyone I know and generally bemoaning my situation I knew it was time for a change. I am not a miserable person by nature and staying in that space was helping no one, least of all me. Talking to people about it wasn’t helping much anyway. I’d get questions about my schedule which I would answer and then the person asking got that sympathetic look and asked how it was all going. My go-to answer, it’s fine. Because whether it was or it wasn’t it’s my situation and I have to deal.
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As my enviroment and circumstances weren’t going to change anytime soon the only option was to ovary-up and change my attitude. Boy, after January did I need an attitude change. I forget, every semester it seems, that I am choosing to do this. I’m choosing to go to school and choosing to work full-time. Ok, well the work full-time bit is more of a need/precaution. Afterall the goal of going to school is to make my life better. To have a career that’s enjoyable, money, and time to do the things that are really enjoyable. In the meantime I’m trying to counter-balance the debt that college classes entail.

So how do I go about changing my attitude? Well I listen to Eminem of course.
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And when I’m not feeling as angry…Ke$ha.
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I’m in my car a lot going. I’ve been trying to use that time wisely. To either unwind or call those I need to keep in touch with. I’m not sure when the last time was I spoke with my mom when not in transport. It helps. Reminding myself this was all a choice helps.

Between writing this post and finishing/publishing it I had to take a test. A test which I barely passed. It shouldn’t have been as hard as it was or rather I should have been more prepared. Just like that I went back to being FINE again. I had to remind myself on the way home to make like Elsa and let it go. A friend reminded me that we all have to bomb a few tests, it’s gonna happen. Besides the other choice it to hang on to it and let it stress me out. I’ve had enough of that and there’s plently to still stress about. But first is winter break. A much much needed winter break. Of course Professors have already given us homework and there are a million things to accomplish but they can be accomplished in pajamas and that makes all the difference.
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